Want an Internship? Learn What Laws and Regulations Affect You


This article is written in conjunction with the IE Law Society.

By Iona Steger

As an IE student, you most likely have an interest to intern during your summer break or during your exchange semester. Here are some new regulations and general guidelines which you should keep in mind when applying for internships in Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Spain’s New Social Security

Spain recently passed a new measure which aims to improve the social protection of students in internships. The measure, which came into effect the 1st of October 2023, requires students doing internships in the private sector in Spain to contribute to the Social Security System. Whilst entitled to the same level of protection as other workers, students will only be required to pay a reduced contribution of 30% of the minimum base set by law. However, if interning in any public sectors, no contribution is required. 

Despite this novelty ensuring benefits such as unemployment or sickness benefits, it will simultaneously create added costs for companies. Nevertheless, while companies might need to readjust temporarily, the government’s pension reform package also includes measures aimed at ensuring the sustainability of the Social Security System. 

Overall, this novelty will help eliminate Social Security fraud associated with internships disguised as job positions and any students who completed internships before the law’s implementation can apply for a one-time special agreement to recognise their contributions for up to two years.

UK Visa Requirements

Now we will explore certain visa requirements for national and non-nationals of the United Kingdom (UK) and the United States (US) when it comes to internship positions. 

In the UK, eligibility requirements for internships can be influenced by factors such as the specific internships program, company policies and/or immigration regulations.

  1. For UK nationals, all have the right to work and participate in UK internships without additional immigration restrictions. However, they might need to satisfy any further requirements set out by the internship provider or educational institution. 
  2. For EU/EEA nationals, in light of Brexit, only those who are already living in the UK are protected by the Settlement Scheme and newcomers will be subject to a points-based immigration system. The points-based immigration system categorises internships under Tier 5 (Temporary Worker) category and you will thus need to apply for a valid visa to intern in the UK. In order to get a Tier 5 visa you might need to be sponsored by a licensed employer, meet the specific skill threshold or display certain qualifications of experience. The process and criteria can vary greatly depending on the duration of the internship and individual circumstances. 
  3. For non-EU nationals, you will be required to obtain a valid visa or work permit for UK internships. However, the specific visa will depend on the duration of the internship or individual circumstances.

In the UK an intern’s entitlement to the national minimum wage is dependent on their classification as a worker.

Classified as a worker?YesNo
The intern is legally obliged to receive at least the minimum wage.Students mandated to undertake an internship as a part of UK-based education course, lasting less than a year, are not eligible for the National Minimum Wage.

Students in Work Shadowing internships. Employers are not obligated to pay the minimum wage.

US Visa Requirements

In the US, depending on whether you are an international student already studying in the country or coming solely to attend an internship opportunity will influence the type of visa and process you are subjected towards. 

  1. For US nationals, all have the right to work and participate in US internships without additional immigration restrictions. However, they might need to satisfy any further requirements set out by the internship provider or educational institution. 
  2. For non-US nationals residing in the US, you will most likely already have an F-1 visa, an academic visa allowing you to enter as a full time student at an accredited college. You must be enrolled in a program or course of study that is authorised by the US government to be accepted. It is important to note that F-1 students may not work off-campus during the first academic year but may accept on-campus employment subject to certain conditions and restrictions. 
  3. For non-US nationals not residing in the US, you will need to obtain a J-1 visa, which authorises individuals who intend to participate in an approved program such as the case for interns. In order to obtain a J-1 visa you must be sponsored by an exchange program. 

If you wish to intern at an off-campus organisation in the US there are two options, the first being Curricular Practical Training (CPT) and the second being Optional Practical Training (OPT).

TypePaidDegree & CreditVisa Implications
CPTCan be paidMust relate to the student’s degree and student must receive some kind of credit for the internship.Must have completed their first year at University and apply for authorisation on their student visa. Need to receive an updated I-20 form.
OPT Can be paidDoes not necessarily need to relate to the student’s degree.Can be undertaken while still enrolled or post-graduation. Approval for internship must be gained from US Citizenship and Immigration Services.


  • https://www.spain-internship.com/en/news/872-changes-to-internship-laws-in-spain
  • https://piktalent.com/countries/uk/eligibility-and-guidelines/#:~:text=What%20type%20of%20%20visa%20or,and%20nature%20of%20the%20internship
  • https://www.gooverseas.com/blog/complete-guide-to-internships-in-united-states-for-international-students
  • https://www.thegraduateproject.co.uk/news/2020/08/how-much-should-you-pay-an-intern/34
  • https://targetjobs.co.uk/careers-advice/internships/law-unpaid-internships-know-your-rights
  • https://www.uscis.gov/working-in-the-united-states/students-and-exchange-visitors/exchange-visitors#:~:text=The%20J%2D1%20classification%20
  • https://www.uscis.gov/working-in-the-united-states/students-and-exchange-visitors/students-and-employment#:~:text=The%20F%2D1%20Visa%20
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